We all know John Gilmore’s famous dictum: “The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.”
True, but with governments doing what they do (and with more bandwidth being centralized in the hands of fewer, larger ISPs), routing around damage isn’t necessarily an automatic thing.
From C^2 comes word of a new book (available free in HTML, pdf, and epub, available for purchase in dead tree format): How to Bypass Internet Censorship. Forgive it for opening with the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights; to some people in the world, that’s an improvement over what they’ve got locally. I haven’t read the whole thing, but it looks like a pretty good guide, C^2 says it’s backed and partly funded by the good people of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and it’s free.
Tell your friends in less free places. Snag a copy for your own reference, come the day. (Even short of that day, it appears to contain a good explanation of how censorship works, how to circumvent it, and what risks are involved.)
In fact, it’s been a bad month starting with the jingoistic blood-lust over the assassination of bin Laden and the murder-followed-by-ever-changing-sheriff-blame-the-victim stories of Jose Guerena.
But then (as I’ve been reminded lately reading histories of the Middle Ages), developments in the world mostly suck, and always have. At least when they involve governments or conscienceless sociopathic sadists (but I repeat myself).
I deliberately avoided blogging much of the month’s rottenness. Others were covering the bad news and I just didn’t want it here. This is, after all, supposed to be “Living Freedom” — and being free is not supposed to be about being jerked hither and thither by rotten news created by even more rotten malefactors and their malodorous institutions.
But try though I might, it got to me. Yesterday afternoon, I caught a tune going round and round in my head: “Maid of Constant Sorrow.” That’s the girly version of the old folk song, “Man of Constant Sorrow,” which you might remember from The Soggy Bottom Boys of O Brother, Where Art Thou?
It wasn’t the lyrics, which are just standard country misery, but the concept — being a person of constant sorrow. Which is what the world will inflict on you if you let it. Between the bad news and worries about some wonderful people who are going through hard times, I let it.
Well, to hell with the ceaseless din of dismal developments. I don’t want to blog an endless stream of bad news. I don’t want to blog cynical, snarky rants. Not all the time — even though I suspect that blogging cynical, snarky rants about bad news would probably triple the readership and sell more books. Snark is entertaining. Indignation makes people feel good. Even being “of constant sorrow” feels good if you can convince yourself you’re suffering because you’re so Sensitive and Noble that the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune perpetually wound your Saintly Soul.
And it feels irresponsible not to blog the scariest news that — like it or not — affects us all, even though others who specialize in privacy or police brutality or law and regulation can do it better.
Which is why I added that topic-delineated not-quite-a-blogroll over the weekend. In the future, you want to watch video of the latest puppycide — go see Radley Balko. Want to know which part of your toddler the TSA wants to grope next — visit one of the blogs under the privacy heading. Want gun news? David Codrea and Mke Vanderboegh are your friends. I know, you probably pay them frequent visits, anyhow. But now that I’ve put the specialists on this page, I feel like I’m off the hook for at least some of that stuff. (You never thought I was on the hook, did you? But I did. And now I feel better.)
Oh, that’s not to say I’ve sworn off ranting. Of course I’ll rant. And I hope you will, too. The comment section can use some good rants. And good links to bad news. Go to it.
Nor am I going to turn this blog into your daily dose of Happy News. There’d be about five readers left at the end of the week if I did that. And I wouldn’t be one of them.
But Living Freedom needs to be what its title implies. It needs to be a refuge, a sanity break, from the relentlessness of BAD. It needs more of this and less of … well, constant sorrow.
Ranting is easier, and so are quick newsbits. So if I really cut down on the rants and news items, that also means I’ll probably cut down a bit on the frequency of postings. But I’m going to do my best to bring you news you can use, practical freedom tips, as well as some non-sappy uplift, and make this blog live up to its amazingly pretentious name.
I should probably even write another book: “How to be Happy While the Whole World is Going to Hell in a Handbasket.” Seriously. I should. Probably ought to read it, too.
If you scroll down and look to the right just below the archives, you’ll see a “real” blogroll. Until now, there’s been only a redundant set of links to other BHM blogs that Oliver put in that spot.
My blogroll isn’t strictly a blogroll because not everything on it is a blog. What I’m aiming to do over time is list the top two to 10 sites, blog or otherwise, in some of the most important liberty categories. This is just a beginning. While a blogroll is no big deal, I know (like a certain something else, everybody has one), this one is connected with some re-thinking I’ve been doing about the nature of this blog.
If you want to commemorate the honorable dead this weekend, you might join (in spirit or in fact) the OathKeepers muster for Jose Guerena, the young ex-Marine murdered by cops while trying to protect his family from vicious home invaders. The muster will take place in Tucson on Monday.
When the SWATting of non-violent drug offenders (which Guerna was not) and gun owners (which he was) ceases, OathKeepers (both the members of the organization and those cops who finally recognize the unlawfulness of what they’ve been doing and stand by their oaths) will deserve everyone’s honor — hopefully not only posthumous honor on Memorial Day.
Dirt-Cheap Survival Retreat: One Man’s Solution
By M.D. Creekmore
Available from Paladin Press
Available from Amazon.com
$12.00, 79 pages, 2011
While many would-be survivalists were waiting to win the lottery or planning to discreetly bump off a rich uncle to build their Ultimate Survival Retreat in Idaho (complete with underground bunkers, escape tunnels, a decade’s supply of dried lentils, and customized Super Whizz-Whacker 3000 rifles at every lead-shuttered portal) … a handful of authors have been telling us how to do it another way: cheap.
This year they’re joined by one of the blogosphere’s most noted survival writers M.D. Creekmore of TheSurvivalistBlog.net.
Kelling and Creekmore both talk about travel-trailer living. Garlington leans more toward primitive structures. All three offer voice-of-experience advice suitable for both low-budget emergency retreats and year-round living. All three bring their own varieties of sage advice: Kelling gives the Cadillac plan (albeit a used Cadillac that’s probably been up on blocks for years), with details on how to create an in-ground homemade septic system and convert a travel trailer to wood heat. Garlington’s lifestyle and advice is for the real don’t-give-a-damn desert rat who loves to scrounge and improvise and doesn’t pay much heed to civilized amenities.
Kelling and Garlington’s books were published by the late, great Loompanics Unlimited and to the best of my knowledge are both out of print (though they’re available via the Amazon links above). So Creekmore is your #1 contemporary option for this sort of book.
And that’s good because his advice comes from a nice, comfortable spot in between his predecessors.
When Creekmore bought a couple acres of junk land and a travel trailer, he never intended to live there full time. He intended the place to be only a campsite and weekend getaway. But a layoff, a divorce, and increasing financial desperation drove him to the country. So he set about adapting his place as a permanent retreat.
He starts off by making one hugely important point about why a cheap retreat might be the way to go: If you don’t own your place outright, then you risk having a bank take it away from you just when you need it most. (Score one for M.D. Creekmore.)
He then goes on to give brief how-tos on:
Acquiring inexpensive off-grid land
Selecting and buying a trailer
Building a simple solar power system
Getting water and dealing with waste
Stockpiling water, food, guns, and other supplies
His writing style is clear. He definitely knows what he’s talking about (I, too, have lived in a travel-trailer on off-grid land and would spot any bogus advice). The slender book contains enough good information that you could slip it into your back pocket and consult it as you carried out your plans.
The subtitle is “One Man’s Solution” — and that it is. The book tells what Creekmore did and most of the detail he gives relates to his own experience. For instance, he talks at length (and shows photos) of his own solar power setup but merely mentions wind power in passing since he has little experience with it. That may be a drawback, but in a way it’s also a strength, since you can be sure that Creekmore knows what he’s talking about.
Some of his systems are simpler than what you might want. For instance, he tried Kelling’s homemade septic system, then found that it didn’t work for him because of local soil conditions. So he switched to a portable toilet and a labor-intensive “humanure” composting system. (His garden probably appreciates the change.)
Yet (with only a minor exception) he remains on track when it comes to guiding his readers toward their own goals. IMHO, the most useful thing about Dirt-Cheap Survival Retreat is that it lays out a pretty comprehensive outline of everything you need to consider in building a retreat. Your solutions might (and probably will) be slightly different than his. But he gives you a framework — a guideline to follow from start to finish.
He delivers some excellent reality checks: you will be chilly in cold weather; you will steam inside your tin-can refuge in the summer. You can mitigate these problems, but you won’t eliminate them.
The one place he went astray made me laugh. On the penultimate page, in a list of otherwise very well thought-out miscellaneous items you might want for stocking your dirt-cheap retreat, he recommends “$1,000 worth (face value) of pre-1965, 90% silver U.S. dimes.”***
In your dreams, M.D. Creekmore! At the moment my review copy arrived from Paladin Press, $1,000 worth of pre-1965 U.S. coins was selling for close to $40,000. Even at the currently reduced “bargain” price of $37+ per ounce of silver, that bag of coins would set you back more than $27,000. Would it be a lovely, lovely asset to possess? You betcha. Will it become even a more blessed thing as the U.S. dollar tanks? Oh, indeed. But how it fits into a dirt-cheap plan — now, that’s another thing.
Try to budget for a $100 face bag of those coins. Or buy $10 face every time you get a little extra money in, or even $1 face. You’ll be glad you did. But don’t intimidate yourself by thinking that a “dirt-cheap” plan should include a small fortune in coins. With the lifestyle implied by a dirt-cheap budget, when the really hard times hit you’re more likely to scrounge, barter, make do, or do without than you are to whip out a fistful of silver dimes and impress your neighbors (and any burglars or tax-leeches who may be around) with your newfound wealth.
But that’s a nitpick. Creekmore has produced, and the good folk at Paladin have published, an inexpensive, useful guide to both budget-minded living and inexpensive retreat building.
Above all, as the author writes, don’t be afraid to live as he does or prepare a retreat as simply as he did — if the idea intrigues you:
Some people prefer a life of simplicity to a “normal” stressed existence. Others want to eliminate debt and the possibility of homelessness after an economic collapse or personal economic downturn.
Some people may be reluctant to embrace such a stripped-down lifestyle for fear of what others will think of them. …
To those who fear the hardships involved or doubt their ability to live off the grid, let me assure you: your fears are unfounded. Before making the move, I too had thoughts of ruination — yet I suffered no hardships to speak of. In fact, I’m actually content for the first time in my life.
*** ADDED: Be sure to read M.D. Creekmore’s comment below. And heaven save all us writers from awkward typos.
I usually take these things with a grain of salt. We’ve just seen a lovely example of how embarrassingly fallible predictions of doom can be. But John Williams of Shadowstats is the very definition of credibility, so it’s worth taking a new look at his most recently updated predictions for hyperinflation. In a word, he says: SOON. Within the year.
Have you also noticed that we’re hearing the term “stagflation” again — meaning an economy that’s going nowhere while prices soar? Well, just a thought. “Stagflation” was something new when it reared its head in the 70s. Economists (presumably not of the Austrian variety) puzzled over it then, and now. What was that weird state and why was it upon us? Ah well. Before mainstreamers figured out the wherefores, Paul Volcker came along, gave the Fed a hard wrench, and that mysterious phenomenon of stagflation passed.
I don’t claim to be an expert. But there’s reason to think that “stagflation” is the larval stage of hyperinflation (sample + sample from very different parts of the political spectrum). Volcker may have wrenched us back from the brink all those years ago. Bernanke .. not likely.
Is Williams right? Dunno. I find it hard to work up the energy to go into Doom Mode, these days.
But if you had to bet on who had the best economic wisdom, who would you back? Williams? Or (pardon me while I spit tea all over the keyboard here) the Obama-Geithner-Bernanke team?
There’s a new blog in town. Or rather, about as far out of town as it can get. In any case, it’s a charmer for everybody who’s interested in things like off-grid technology, permaculture, DIY homebuilding, and independent living in general.
I suspect The Independent Spirit blog was born from the clamor of Get Rich Slowly readers to know more about Ian’s prize-winning video success story. In any case, it’s a great addition to the blogosphere by three people who write well and are super-doers. (And since I’ve known all three for years, I can verify that they really know what they’re talking about — and tell you that Ian’s even more handsome and charming in person than he is in his video. He’s Hollywood-handsome, in fact, and it’s always been an amazing thing to me that he prefers hanging out with a bunch of desert rats and being a desert rat himself rather than … well, doing the usual things Hollywood-handsome men do.)
Anyhow, prepare for some good reading and great information from three bright, charming, cussedly independent freedomistas.
O. sent this to me with the comment, “If this is true, it does not portend good things for freedom, in general, or firearms, given Facebook’s reach on the net.”
Facebook’s managers are deploying a new software upgrade that will dismantle myriad groups of like-minded political activists unless they get a special software-key from the company.
But Facebook managers are providing very limited information about which groups are being favored with the new key, prompting some activists to complain about possible political favoritism among Facebook managers, and many other activists to experiment with techniques and tricks to get the needed upgrade-key. …
Facebook’s software changes do not impact the individual pages that Facebook subscribers use to stay in contact with friends and to tout their relationships, statuses and accomplishments. The upgrade only effects the software that links Facebook’s “groups” of like-minded people, each of which is managed by one or more group administrators. …
The new software-upgrade will automatically archive all groups. Once archived, each group’s past activity will be still be visible on Facebook, but the groups’ administrators will lose access to their lists of group members. That means the administrators lose contact with everyone in their groups, and will be forced to recruit all those members again – unless Facebook provides them with the special upgrade software.
The entire process/policy change seems clunky, arbitrary, and unfair (as is Facebook’s famous wont). Wiping out entire groups? Why? Restoring some groups while leaving others not knowing whether they’ll live or die? What for? I go on wondering: How did Facebook become so rich and powerful when it treats its members like sh*t time and again? And when its management style resembles a chimp with ADHD?
But I find it hard to believe FB would be as blatantly, stupidly biased as the article implies — giving the privilege of the “special key” to The Brady Campaign with its mere 1,000 members, for instance, while withholding it from a libertarian group that has 60,000 members, and so on. Would FB managers deliberately, publicly promote “left wing” groups while at the same time utterly destroying conservative, libertarian, and (presumably) anarcho-capitalist ones?
I suspect another shoe will drop and this won’t turn out to be quite what it seems. Still … O’s right. The very fact that FB can — and will? — arbitrarily wipe out groups it doesn’t favor could be dangerous stuff. So heads up to freedomistas in general and gunfolk in particular.
One could be charitable and say the man’s getting senile. But does senility bring such arrogance, narcissism, and complete disregard for what he wrought on those who were foolish enough to believe him?
And yes, of course. He wasn’t wrong. Didn’t even make a “math error” this time. (In fact, he now says he never made a math error in the first place, not in his 1994 Doomsday prediction, nor anywhere else.) Judgment Day came exactly as he predicted. We simply didn’t notice. Three times now, apparently.
Presumably we will notice — albeit briefly — when the world is destroyed by fire on October 21. That would be just a tad harder to miss.
Carl-Bear Bussjaeger has a pretty hot opinion on all this, including an offer Mr. Camping shouldn’t refuse and questions about those earthquakes — you know, the ones that were absolutely going to happen and be so powerful they’d shove the dead out of their graves?
Sigh … it was funny for a few weeks. But are we really gonna have to go through five more months of this?
Dead birds got me thinking about survivalism and situational awareness.
Among other tchotchkes and geegaws the sellers of my new-old house left were a number of cutsy birdhouses in the backyard. I was going to pull them all down. But before I got to it, anonymous-looking brown birds moved into one, did what birdies do in the spring, and produced babies. I don’t know a lot about birds, but I’m guessing this pair has used this nest box before. I can’t imagine that they’d otherwise choose it — given that it’s smack in the middle of a small yard that’s now filled with predatory dogs.
In any case, Ma and Pa Birdie made their nest, made their babies, then worked their little wings to the bone bringing food to the family. That went on for a couple of weeks. Friday morning I discovered scruffy, confused-looking adolescent avians hopping around on the ground. They could fly — barely — but didn’t seem to know how to get out of their own way. I kept the dogs in the house for hours and only let them out when no fledglings were in sight. But to no avail. By evening, birdie bodies had turned up all over the yard and the entire brood was dead.
Sigh. I love my dogs. But they are dogs and by definition they like to kill small moving things. It was as if Mama and Papa bird had kicked their youngsters right into canine jaws. All their work of raising a family — for naught.
It was sad and I felt responsible. Still, if there were Darwin Awards for feathered creatures, that pair would certainly be finalists for making their nest in such a hazardous spot.
Talk about a total lack of situational awareness!
A more human (and smarter) take on survival and situational awareness came from The Orange Jeep Dad, who wrote about how he found himself thinking like a survivalist on — of all things — a trip to Disneyland.
Annoying though it may be to have to think like that, I’ll bet every person here has had a similar experience — if not hundreds of them.
You check into a hotel room and the first thing you do is memorize all the exit routes posted on the door, right? You have more extra sets of car keys than most people have keys. You keep so much emergency gear in your vehicle you barely have room for cargo (or, in extreme cases, for passengers). You sit as close as possible to an exit every time you go to a movie. You keep an eye on the other customers any time you walk into a convenience store, ready in case one turns out to be a robber. If you live in earthquake or tornado country, your eyes automatically scope out the safest spots any time you enter a new building.
Yet as you look around, you see so many people cluelessly ambling along in condition white. (One of the things I notice a lot is women leaving their purses, sometimes wide open, in the kid seat of shopping cards. Yegads.)
So tell me about your situational awareness. How has it changed as you’ve become more aware of preparedness or the responsibility for self defense? Where (outside of emergency situations) does your awareness most manifest itself? And how does it manifest itself? And when — to tell tales on ourselves that might help somebody else — have you failed to maintain enough situational awareness and what were the consequences?
I’m with Judy. Let’s start a new species. The old one is downright embarrassing.
I don’t know how many followers (and that’s a perfect term for them) got caught up in Harold Camping’s latest addition to the world’s many no-show doomsdays. But every one of them willingly surrendered the main attribute of being human — the ability to think.
Painful though it was to watch Camping drone Robert Fitzpatrick get grilled by gloaters in Times Square, it was no more than he could have expected. (At least, unlike Camping, he had the guts to show his face in public after the fiasco.) His worst consequence should come when he realizes he blew his $140,000 life savings on another man’s fantasy.
But will he ever get that? Even after repeated disappointments, few True Believers do. They say God was testing their faith or they made a slight miscalculation. They see that the world mocks them — which makes them only cling closer to some bogus Truth.
And it’s not just fringe Christians. Really, how much difference is there between the followers of Harold Camping and the millions of people who faithfully follow the federal government’s dietary guidelines — even as they bloat with obesity and get sick with diabetes? For that matter there’s not much difference between those Unhappy Campers and the tens of millions who Believe government is next to God — but can never answer the question: “If it’s so great why can it only survive on stolen money and coercion?”
I once had a friend who got horribly burned in a patriot tax scam. Lost lots of money. Got in trouble with the IRS. Ouch.
Thereafter, she became an intelligent, diligent, and stunningly witty debunker of such scams. She could take apart fraudulent anti-tax schemes so thoroughly they could never be put back together again.
But somehow, her hard-won wisdom applied only to tax scams. The whole time I knew her, she was always trying to drag me and other friends into all manner of scammy multi-level marketing schemes. If the word “prosperity” appeared in their title, she was sold. I would ask her not to send me sales pitches, telling her I didn’t like having friends try to sell me stuff, let alone try to drag me into multi-layered everybody-sells-everybody-else webs. She’d back off for a while — then pitch me another one. When I’d protest, she’d answer, “But I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t tell you about this OPPORTUNITY.”
Like most True Believers, she was also fickle. The latest scheme was always The One Great Thing. A month later, it wouldn’t be mentioned again. But having forgotten all about Global Prosperity Marketing, Inc. she was sure that Spiritual Prosperity for Wealth and Fame, Inc. was about to catapult her — and all her lucky friends! — into riches.
I grew up in too-close company with someone similar. When she was in her Christian phase, she damned me to hell for being a pagan. A year later, when she became an atheist, all religious people were not just wrong — they were irredeemable fools. And this rapid-fire sequential True Believerism wasn’t only in the big things. Like rock music? Sniff, sniff; you must be terribly immature. Only classical music is suitable for adults and everyone with any sense knows that. But the next year, when a hit movie turned her on to country & western music and $300 cowboy boots, anybody who didn’t like twangy guitars or designer cowgirl attire was simply too disgusting to bother with.
So this weekend we all had a good, eye-rolling laugh at a bunch of well-financed, overly prideful Followers of Fashion. We got the chance to enjoy some funny photos and even funnier video clips. And we got to feel smug and superior to the unknown number of Believers who actually Believed Mr. Camping’s Funny Math because it was easier than asking skeptical questions and relying on their own brains, research, history, or common sense for answers.
But even if there were only 10,000 — or 1,000 — or even a few hundred who followed Harold Camping into folly, how many more out there “think” (if you can call it that) just like those folks about other things? How many others routinely follow rather than ask questions? How many routinely hate the latest media-whipped villain, unquestioningly ride the latest propaganda bandwagon, slaveringly join in the latest witchhunt? How many Believe — over and over again, no matter how many times reality attempts to smack them in the face? How many hate Arabs or pit bulls or militiamen or pot smokers — just because somebody told them to? How many love Obama or Bush despite ample evidence that it just ain’t reciprocal? How many believe any old thing they hear in the media — for no better reason than that pack of willful self-delusionists followed Harold Camping?
Several articles during the pre-Rapture-that-wasn’t mentioned that 41 percent of Americans Believe Jesus will come down from heaven before 2050. Not having seen the raw data or the polling methodology, I’m not sure how to evaluate that claim. But given the number who Believe things like “the policeman is your friend” or “if government didn’t stop us we’d all murder each other” or “the U.S. justice system is the best in the world” or “if you don’t like the government you can change it!” … well, I’m with Judy.